Defying the myth of poison

Vikale demo plot
Vikale demo plot

In a village largely marred with myths and misconceptions about the KALRO improved cassava varieties, scepticism about venturing into the high yielding, fast maturing, improved cassava variety is not uncommon in this tiny village of Mgandamwani in the coastal hinterland of Kilifi County, Bamba location. The astute men and women of Vikale Self Help group had the audacity to go against the much accepted myth (that the improved cassava varieties are poisonous and unhealthy for human consumption) to actually venturing into the practise!

Founded in 2005, Vikale Self Help group is in the business of farming. Having been engaged in maize production, groundnut farming and goat rearing, the group knows that successful farming is not just about growing crops or keeping livestock. There is a whole lot more to it! This ranges from the climatic conditions, type of soils, manual labour input, maintenance costs to the outputs obtained. After consecutively receiving poor produce from maize production due to erratic rainfall, not knowing where to take their mature groundnuts due to unclear markets and having to deal with high maintenance costs for the hybrid goats, the group was forced to seek other alternatives to complement their projects and make ends meet.

Knowing best how to spot an opportunity, the group immediately grabbed the prospect presented by CAST to better their lives. Shying away from talks about the dangers of cultivating the improved cassava varieties, the group sought to look for a one acre piece of land, a prerequisite to participate in the project. With the onset of the short rains in November 2013, the group embarked on a journey they have no regrets for. They were among the first groups to cultivate cassava under the CAST project having met all the requirements. With sheer determination, the group planted 3000 cuttings received from CAST. Equipped with proper farming skills and tools (jembes & pangas) issued by CAST, the group diligently toiled their shamba.

cassava harvest
Farmer displaying harvest from the plot

The group has so far sold over 1000 cassava cuttings at 2Kshs each. It has also sold over 120kgs of raw cassava and 113 packets of crisps at 20Ksh/kg and 10Kshs/pkt respectively.

When asked what their future plan is, the secretary, Eliud, chuckles and says “This is the beginning to a new era….”. Fully armed with a chipper and a solar dryer (all provided by CAST) the group is looking forward to start processing cassava flour and supply it in the local market. The group has already leased and tractor tilled another one acre of land ready for another planting season. Indeed the once a laughing stock has become the envy of the village.

Susan Juma
Monitoring and Evaluation officer